Let me tell you what an economically developed India should look like by 2020:
1. A nation where the rural-urban divide has been reduced to a thin line.
2. A nation where there is an equitable distribution of, and adequate access to, energy and quality water.
3. A nation where agriculture, industry and the service sector work together in symphony.
4. A nation where education with a good value system is not denied to any meritorious candidates because of societal or economic discrimination.
5. A nation which is the best destination for the most talented scholars, scientists, and investors from around the world.
6. A nation where the best of healthcare is available to all.
7. A nation where governance is responsive, transparent and corruption-free.
8. A nation where poverty has been totally eradicated, illiteracy removed, crime against women and children is absent, and no one in the society feels alienated.
9. A nation that is prosperous, healthy, secure, devoid of terrorism, peaceful and happy, and continues on a sustainable growth path.
10. A nation that is one of the best places to live in and is proud of its leadership.
Integrated Action for a Developed India
In order to realize this distinctive profile, we have to transform India in five areas where India has core competence:
1. Agriculture and food processing
2. Education and healthcare
3. Information and communication technology
4. Infrastructure development, which includes reliable and quality electric power, surface transport and infrastructure for all parts of the country including rural and urban areas under PURA
5. Self-reliance in critical technologies.
Challenges involved in realizing the vision
The India Vision 2020 document was prepared at the time of Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao. It was given to his successor, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who announced in Parliament as well as in one of his Independence Day addresses that India will become an economically developed nation by 2020. At a governors’ conference during my presidency, Manmohan Singh announced that his government, too, will carry forward the task of economically developing the nation.
As any national vision takes at least fifteen years for its realization, a minimum of three democratically elected governments have to work on it. National missions cannot be party agenda, but they can be part of their election manifestos. The methodology of the party in power may be different from that of its predecessor, but the vision would be supreme. For this reason, it has to cut across party lines and be approved by Parliament to ensure continuity in its realization irrespective of the government of the day.
Vision 2020, too, does not belong to any single party, government or individual. It is a national vision. Once the government commits to realizing it, it has to be discussed and debated in detail by all elected representatives in Parliament so that a national consensus –incorporating the concerns of all stakeholders such as the executive, the judiciary, the political class, media, intellectuals, academia, business, industry, teachers, doctors, farmers, and the youth of the nation – emerges.
Hence the elected leader of the nation – the driving force behind the vision – should be a creative leader who walks an unexplored path of developmental politics with the cooperation of other parties, using the core competences of other leaders, intellectuals, able and creative minds from all disciplines irrespective of their party affiliations, to realize the vision.
‘Why Nations Fail’
I recently read a book called Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty by Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson. It analyses the socio-economic and political policies of developed and developing nations, and offers some insights which are as pertinent to India as the other nations discussed.
For example, England, after the Glorious Revolution created the world’s first set of inclusive political institutions. As a consequence, economic institutions in the UK also started becoming more inclusive. The English state aggressively promoted mercantile activities and worked to promote domestic industry, not only by removing barriers to the expansion of industrial activity but also by lending the full power of the English navy to defend mercantile interests. By rationalizing property rights, it facilitated the construction of infrastructure, particularly roads, canals and waterways, and later railways, that would prove to be crucial for industrial growth. The British government adopted a set of economic institutions that provided incentives for investment, trade and innovations like the steam engine.
The rebirth of China came with a significant move away from one of the most extractive set of economic institutions and towards more inclusive ones. Market incentives in agriculture and industry, followed by welcoming aggressive foreign investment and state-of- the-art technology adoption and development, have set China on a path to rapid economic growth.
Now it is time for us to ask ourselves what are the impediments to the economic development of our nation? Indian political institutions are inclusive, or at least partially so, based as they are on a democratically elected Parliament and democratic political parties. The question to ponder is whether these political institutions have created inclusive economic institutions. From the results of the economic situation we see around us today, the answer for now is ‘no’. India’s economic growth is not sustainable.
India needs to transform its partially inclusive political institutions and extractive economic institutions into fully inclusive political and economic institutions. Internal reforms and improvements in economic efficiency will help reduce both trade deficit and inflation.
Instead of consumption spending, we need to increase infrastructure spending. Imports of agricultural produce, minerals, coal and petroleum products have to be considerably reduced, and inclusive economic policies should empower Indians to attain competitiveness in the agriculture, industry and services sectors. We need to skill-enable and knowledge-enable our youth by fostering private sector initiatives. It is essential to develop sustainable systems in every domain, so that fluctuations in the world economy do not have a direct impact on the Indian economy.
What India has achieved
We have only six years to achieve the goals of Vision 2020. The nation should take it up as a primary task and facilitate all stakeholders to contribute to realizing the goals of the developed India mission.
India has made substantial progress in enhancing agricultural productivity and increasing per capita income. According to NASSCOM, the IT–BPO sector in India aggregated revenues of $100 billion in FY2012, with export and domestic revenue standing at $69.1 billion and $31.7 billion respectively. India has become the world’s second-largest mobile phone using country, with 900 million users, and the Indian automobile industry has become the third largest in the world. In addition, rural and urban development missions have created large-scale infrastructure such as a national quadrilateral highway, world-class airports in metro cities, and all- weather rural roads. The literacy rate in India stood at 74.04 per cent in 2012. India’s healthcare sector is projected to grow to nearly $40 billion. And we are aspiring to provide clean green energy and safe drinking water to all the citizens of the nation.
Against the backdrop of this growth, we have to assess where we stand in terms of what we aspired to in the 1990s and see if and why there is a gap. It is time for the nation and its leaders to take up a review mission and suggest methods by which we can accelerate progress so that by 2020 India can become a developed country with zero poverty, 100 per cent literacy, quality healthcare for all, quality education embedded in a sound value system for all, and value-added employment for every citizen consistent with his education and professional skills. If we channelize our integrated efforts towards Vision 2020, the economic development of our nation is certain.
It is only our political system that gives the required support to farmers, scientists, engineers, doctors, teachers, advocates and other professionals alike to enable this nation to achieve success in the green revolution, white revolution, the space mission, defence mission, science and technology mission, and infrastructure development mission. What we are today is because of our political system. India’s youth should not keep away from politics but enter it to inspire, guide and lead to make this nation great in all disciplines.
The ignited minds of the youth are bubbling with the spirit of ‘I can do it’ and the belief that ‘India will become a developed nation’. If you all feel that you can do it, India will certainly get the necessary creative leadership at all levels from panchayat to Parliament. These ignited minds will sing the song of youth and lead the nation towards sustainable development. I strongly believe that the youth of my nation, by entering politics, will build a brand of integrity, honesty, value system, courage, commitment and responsibility with accountability around them and practise development politics.
Song of youth
As a young citizen of India,
Armed with technology, knowledge and love for my nation
I realize, small aim is a crime.
I will work and sweat for a great vision
The vision of transforming India into a developed nation
Powered by economic strength and a value system
I am one of the citizens of the billion;
Only the vision will ignite the billion souls.
It has entered into me;
The ignited soul compared to any resource is the
Most powerful resource on the earth,
above the earth and under the earth.
Excerpted with permission from A Manifesto for Change, APJ Abdul Kalam and V Ponraj, HarperCollins India.
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